Veterans of the “forgotten army” have been honoured with a town hall civic reception.

Ex-servicemen of the Burma Campaign, all in their 90s, as well as family and friends were invited to the civic reception at Middlesbrough Town Hall in their honour.

The event was organised by Cllr Joan McTigue, independent councillor for Longlands and Beechwood in recognition of former servicemen who fought in the campaign – often referred to as the ‘forgotten army’.

While those back home celebrated the Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945, fighting continued in Burma – now known as Myanmar – until July.

Burma veteran Leslie Butler with a photo of himself taken when he was serving in the British Army
Burma veteran Leslie Butler with a photo of himself taken when he was serving in the British Army (Image: Copyright Unknown)

The long-running campaign saw the forces of the British Empire and China, supported by the United States, in vicious combat against the invading forces of Japan, Thailand and India.

British land and air forces reached a peak of around 1,000,000 during the three-year conflict.

On Thursday, four of the few remaining servicemen who fought in the campaign and survived, Geoff Bowen, 97, Leslie Butler, 97, Dennis Shakeshaft, 93, and Jimmy Duffy, 95, were guests of honour.

The four men discussed their experiences and their lives since the Second World War.

Last week, Mr Butler and his wife Marjorie celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

Veteran Geoff Bowen, with the full attention of the room, said: “This has been wonderful.

“People talk about the forgotten army, well you know, we weren’t forgotten at all.

“Our families, our relatives, our friends always thought of us, no matter what part of Burma you were in, whether it be Arakan, inland, whatever.

“We were in touch with people and people were in touch with us.

“It’s given me the opportunity to meet some old stalwarts like my 5th Division friend here.

“It’s been a privilege and an honour, thanks very much.”

Speaking before the reception, Cllr McTigue said: “These veterans have never been officially recognised here in our area, so this is our way of saying they have not been forgotten by us.”

On the day, Cllr McTigue thanked the dozens who attended, including councillors from all parties, veterans’ families and three current servicemen, for making the reception a success.

“I want to say a big thank you really,” she said.

“I never imagined we would have this response. People from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, they’ve sent messages because they want phone numbers of people here – they want to get in touch with them.

“Thank you to everyone – we might do it again some time.”

Any veterans or relatives of those who fought in Burma who wish to get in touch with other families can call Fred Pole on 07816104257 or email fred.pole48@gmail.com

© 2018 Tees Info

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